The ‘Dream’ lives

Spirit of Faith moves into new sanctuary

Published: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 3:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 3:28 p.m.

Spirit of Faith Christian Center Gainesville moved into its new location at the former site of the Dove World Outreach Center with a proclamation from its leader that the church will continue to promote cultural unity and the uplifting of the kingdom of God, which is a stark contrast to what the former occupants of the site promoted.

"Our motto is ‘Loving God, Loving People and Loving Life,'" said Pastor Ken Claytor, founder and senior pastor of Spirit of Faith Gainesville, during remarks at a ribbon cutting/media day event held last Thursday at the church's new property at 5805 NW 37th St.

Claytor said the 20-acre site will be known as the church's International Campus and will house "The Dream Center," which will be built in five phases. Claytor said God gave him the vision for the Dream Center, which, upon its completion, will include a Christian business school, day care center, middle and high schools, a rehabilitation facility for people with substance abuse addictions, a mentoring program for young men, a music studio, orphanage, tennis courts and more.

Spirit of Faith purchased the property in July for $1.25 million, and held its first services there Sunday morning. The church used to hold services at its former East Campus at 1414 NE 23rd Ave.

The new location used to house Pastor Terry Jones and his small Dove World congregation. Jones received international attention in 2010 when he said he was going to burn copies of the Koran, the Islamic sacred book. News media outlets from around the nation descended on the property, and on Sept. 9, 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama called the planned burnings "a recruitment bonanza for al-Qaeda" that could result in serious violence against American troops.

Jones moved his ministry to the Tampa area earlier this year, and was arrested last Wednesday in Polk County before he could burn almost 3,000 Korans after the Polk County Board of County Commissioners denied his request a day earlier for a permit to conduct the burning in a local park to mark the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He was charged with the unlawful carrying of fuel for allegedly planning to burn the 3,000 Korans, one for every victim of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Claytor said the Dream Center will be built in five phases, beginning with the renovation of the main sanctuary where services are currently held. He said the second phase will begin once the property is completely paid for, and will include building "first-class facilities." He said the Dream Center will be a place where people can come and realize the dreams, goals, plans and visions God has for their lives.

With the move to its International Campus, Spirit of Faith is still growing after a meteoric growth spurt from when it began having services in April 2007 in Claytor's home. The church also briefly held services at the Thelma Boltin Center in northeast Gainesville before moving to the ballroom at what was then the Clarion Inn & Conference Center on Newberry Road, west of I-75. After a brief stay there, the church moved into its West Campus at 7510 NW 4th Blvd.

In 2010, the church purchased its East Campus, formerly the home of Fire of God Ministries, and began having services there and also at the West Campus. Last year, the church stopped holding Sunday services at the East and West campuses and began meeting at the Phillips Center on the University of Florida campus until Easter Sunday this year.

Claytor said the church will continue to operate its Faith Academy day care center, which has more than 120 students, at its West Campus, and plans to open a second campus at the Dream Center in the future. He said the Greater Works School of Ministry, which has more than 60 students, will now meet at the International Campus.

Claytor said the church will be renting its East Campus to Macedonia Baptist Church, with an option for Macedonia to buy the property. Macedonia held its first service there Sunday.

Claytor and his wife, Tabatha, both graduated from West Virginia University in 2000, the same year they joined Spirit of Faith Christian Center in Temple Mills, Md., near Washington D.C., where Dr. Michael A. Freeman is the founder and pastor.

The Claytors received their licenses in pastoral leadership in 2006 and moved to Gainesville a year later. The Claytors have been married for 14 years and they have three children — Hannah, Charity and Kenneth II.

Claytor said the Lord told him and his wife to start their church in Gainesville. He said he flew to Gainesville with his wife and heard the Lord speak to him again.

"The Lord said, ‘Yes I have called you here and your ministry will be a blessing to many people,' " Claytor said.

And that it has been.

Claytor said the church currently has more than 2,000 partners (members) representing more than 25 nationalities. He said the church has also witnessed more than 16,000 people confess that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior.

Last Thursday at the media event, Gainesville Mayor Ed Braddy and Gainesville Police Department Chief Tony Jones spoke briefly.

Jones said he was glad to be visiting the property for a good reason, for a change, after having to deal with Jones in the past.

"This is a joyous occasion," Jones said. "My relationship with this building has not always been pleasant. Today, I see hope. This church is a God-send for this community."

Braddy said he used to live in the Mill Run neighborhood where the church is now located, and he said the neighborhood has a varied and diverse population. He said Spirit of Faith is a model church, and ended by quoting scripture from I Corinthians 12:13, which states, "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity."

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